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Those of you who know Suburban Stroller, or have known me over many years, will be familiar with the car that I drive.  A 1998 Toyota Corolla GLE 1.6, currently with 307753 km on the clock. I have to confess it isn’t my car – being on (permanent) loan from a very kind older brother. 

Okay, it doesn’t exactly have the sort of power it may once have had, but it still boasts 0-100 in under 2 minutes … and, most of the time, without overheating. I call it my red Ferrari, much to my children’s chagrin. My youngest daughter, Omphile, was not too keen on being picked up from school in the Ferrari, although I couldn’t figure out why.

My “Red Ferrari”

So, a couple of weeks back, I had to smile when that same Omphile came into the house with a look of complete wonder on her face and said: “Dad, you’re not going to believe this…there is a real Ferrari in Harfield Village, just down the road from us!”

This I had to see.  So off I strolled down the road and, lo and behold, there was indeed the genuine thing – no Toyota Corolla masquerading as a Ferrari, but the proper, pucker, legit item.  Black, not red, but still.  But alas, no owner was to be found.

So, I did the only thing that a self-respecting suburban stroller could do under the circumstances, and wrote a grovelling note begging and pleading for the opportunity to get a ride in this machine.  I duly put this under the windscreen wiper.

My grovel

While preparing to stroll off home, I noticed two distinguished looking gentlemen heading in my direction.  I halted my stroll and returned to the scene.  Bingo!  They were heading straight for the magnificent machine now bearing my somewhat less magnificent note.

When they arrived, I tried my best not to sound pathetic, but failed miserably in this endeavour.  I tried to explain that the fastest vehicle I had ever driven was a horse and that I REALLY needed this opportunity.  They politely excused themselves from my company, and said they had my note.  Well, nothing ventured nothing gained, I thought.

Well blow me down when today, in the middle of an important teleconference, I took a call from the PA to a certain Mr Charleston (*not his real name).  She gave me a location to meet the gentleman within 15 minutes of the call.  Of course, I excused myself from the teleconference citing urgent business to attend to, and hurried to the given location.

I heard the roar of the beast long before I saw it.  It pulled up alongside, and Mr Charleston invited me to get in. 

[IMPORTANT NOTE TO YOUNG READERS: I AM A BAD ROLE-MODEL.  DO NOT GET INTO CARS WITH STRANGERS.]

And thereafter, let’s just say that I learned the meaning of G-Force … or at least some of my organs did.  I can’t yet comment on the condition of my heart because I am still trying to dislodge it from my throat.

You see, the problem is that the Ferrari is only one of a whole range of sports cars which Mr Charleston has owned – including, Lamborghinis, Maseratis, Ferraris and an Aston Martin.  What’s more, he has had training in high speed driving in Italy – and the reason he likes these vehicles, is for their performance. And boy, does he know how to make his Ferrari perform!

The streets of Cape Town were, for a brief period today, converted into a Grand Prix race track – and I, the Suburban Stroller, more accustomed to terra firma beneath foot, was pushed backwards into my seat as we tore around it.  My prior experience of high speed driving around the city in paramedic response vehicles paled in comparison.  I will confess this once, and only once – and thereafter I will deny that I said it … it was exhilarating.  The enjoyment factor was multiplied by the satisfying throaty roar of the engine as we torpedoed from zero to [DELETED IN THE INTEREST OF ENSURING NO ADMISSION OF TRAFFIC LAW INFRINGEMENT] in a matter of what seemed like miliseconds. 

It seems he agrees.  He prefers his 458 Italia to more recent faster models which are turbo charged, because they don’t have the same noise.  The 458 Italia is the last naturally aspirated engine which Ferrari brought out.

The innards of the beast

Despite my most valiant efforts, Mr Charleston declined to allow me to publish his true identity.  He is, in many respects, an unassuming man.  Having turned 80 this year, he says he doesn’t like to draw attention to himself – hence the black rather than a red Ferrari.  At one stage, he had a convertible Mercedes, but didn’t like the attention he drew.  So he gave it to his nephew, who didn’t share those reservations.  [I AM RAPIDLY SCANNING THROUGH MY FAMILY TREE TO SEE IF I CAN ESTABLISH SOME FAMILIAL CONNECTION, BUT ALAS HAVE DRAWN A BLANK TO DATE]

I am sorry that I was unable to convince him to let me write a biographical piece on him – he has an unbelievable wealth of business experience that would no doubt offer valuable insights for business wannabees.  For now, I will focus my attention instead on persuading him that I REALLY need a ride on his luxury yacht (which looks a bit like a cruise liner to me), currently moored in Barcelona – waiting for his next voyage in the Mediterranean.

My next ride

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